How Important Is Technology For Knowledge Management?

For the first time in my life, I delivered one hour talk without the aid of a Power Point presentation. No, I did not use any other software to make the slides. Did the projection system break down? No! Did the computer crash? No!

It was a talk delivered to K-Community, a group of IT professional in Bangalore interested in KM.  I took the brave decision of talking for an hour without any presentation aid to support my main thesis of the talk – “Technology is not the key for Knowledge Management, we already have enough of it. The key is to build connections among people.”

Till few years back I was a strong believer in use of technology in KM. I sincerely thought that once you have the right technology in place all the KM problems will be solved. However, since then several things happened which forced me to change my conviction. Just go through following points and check if you have encountered similar situations.

  1. Though you have set up a knowledge repository, you still find that people mostly search the web to get answers to their queries.
  2. You have set up a wiki but you are having difficulty in getting it populated with useful content. As a result the usage is very low.
  3. A project team maintains all their project related documents in their VSS (or any other SCM system they are using) and are not interested in adding them in the company knowledge repository.
  4. You have a mechanism of informing people of what is available in the knowledge repository but people still send email asking for specific documents.
  5. You are looking for some information and you are not sure where to search, so you ask a colleague for the information.
  6. You need a specific piece of information about a project executed in the past. You would rather locate any key member of the team ask that person than hunt through the project archive or search the company knowledge repository.

I have done an informal checked many IT professionals and I have not found anybody who strongly disagrees with these points. It may not be their official position because it may be politically incorrect.

So, the moral of the story is that …

… it is much more effective to ask the right person for the information than to search for the information

… in most situation the web is a better source for specific technical information than internal knowledge repository

I am reminded of a lecture by Aaron Tan Dani, who was the the Chairman for IASA – APAC where he made the following interesting points.

  • It does not matter whom you know – you know Bill Gates … so what … does he know you
  • What is important is who knows you
  • It is even more important who trusts you

It is all about building network — and that is the essence of Web2.0!

Technology is secondary. Use it to make it simple to build links among people.

8 Responses to “How Important Is Technology For Knowledge Management?”
  1. Joe says:

    “… it is much more effective to ask the right person for the information than to search for the information”

    It might be more effective for the person searching for the information, but it consumes the time of the person being asked. If that individual is engaged in high-priority work, successive requests for the same information from different users will lead to crippling inefficiencies.

    Our company develops project management software, and we understand the need for knowledge sharing among team members, managers, stakeholders and sponsors. What we’ve found works best is to create a central repository for information with super-search functions and configurable views that allow users to zero in on the information they need. If the item they need can’t be found that way, then they can approach someone who has the information they need.

  2. Brian Denten says:

    Great post, Udayan. Though this post is several years old at this point, it seemed you read the writing on the walls quite well. The strength of the interent is not to be underestimated as recent history has proved. The wealth of knowledge on the web is immense, and harnessing that knowledge to improve your business is essential in today’s world.

  3. Madan Kumar says:

    Knowledge Management: An attempt to manage knowledge?

    Probably, thats where the problem is, attempting to manage. As you pointed out most people search the web. The power is the search. Then they would ask other people, again the person is used like a search engine. So ineffect the problem of knowlege management can be solved if we
    (a) Dont ask people to put stuff in one place, why should they, it should be where it is, and how it is.
    (b) Build the capability for anyone to seach and effectively find that suff. Thats where technology comes into to play.

    So the next knowledge management solution should be a intelligent beast, call it Search engine, which will mine your enterpirse and locate the stuff you want. And when this beast starts working, the only person you need to know is this beast.

  4. Yeah, good post. In think, the main thing is not to forget that technology is not some kind of magic that will make everything work and will make businesses more productive. Technology can help people. That’s it. Here’s a link that you might find interesting. It’s not about KM, it’s about PM, but still.

  5. Nice post.
    I agree that technology is not THE key to KM. And I think that I would agree, generally, that connections among people are the key (or at least A key) to effective KM. But we must acknowledge that while we can make connections among people without technology, it sure helps – it is a TOOL to help make connections. And, of course, we need to keep “technology” in perspective. At various points, things that weren’t considered so technologically advanced, like stone tablets, paper and pen, books, the printing press, telegraphs, telephones, etc. were cutting edge.

  6. Aditya says:

    Long live social networks 🙂

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